The State Is Obsolete
I had this piece written and was ready to post it last week when the news of the Orlando shooting came out. I felt the need to react to that event immediately, but I believe that this piece has only become more relevant in the days after the shooting. Predictably, President Obama started pushing gun control before the bodies were even cold, and has acted in a callous and morally reprehensible manner in the way he has taken advantage of those grieving the loss of loved ones. The entire movement for gun control has been made completely moot by technology, however. Want to make 30 round magazines illegal? You will also have to make 3D printers illegal. The truth is that the State became morally obsolete a long time ago, but technology will eventually render authoritarianism completely irrelevant, and the process is already well underway.
The world sometimes seems like a gloomy place. The only remaining candidates for president, including the Libertarians, are authoritarian tyrants. Obama seems intent on butting heads with the Chinese, the Russians, the Middle East, and everyone else. Hillary Clinton accuses Trump of incoherent foreign policy, and in the same speech claims to be both stronger on national security and less likely to go to war.
I don’t like writing bummer articles. I do it on occasion, and unfortunately those articles seem to get the most views. I prefer to write about subjects that give me the warm fuzzies: the rise of the liberty movement, the fall of socialism, free trade, and world peace. Every so often, I need a kick in the pants to get back into that mode. The world may be a frightening place at times, but the truth is that things are better than they have ever been, and are getting better every day.
I recently heard an episode of the Tom Woods show that gave me just the jolt I needed. For those of you who don’t listen to the Tom Woods show, shame shame shame! The show is very cerebral, but also very funny. One of my favorite guests is Micheal Malice, who Tom clearly enjoys talking with. In his most recent appearance, Malice presented an argument against voting as a means of political change. While I personally do vote, I tend to think of it as a starting place rather than an ending place. The real battle takes place in the media, on Facebook, and in technological advancement.
In the show, Malice gave an example of how technology might make the State obsolete in the future, and how it has already done so. He explained that if we traveled back to the 70’s we would see heated discussion about which materials should be censored by people unaware that the point would be completely moot in the future due to the rise of the internet. He further hypothesized that a technology such as teleportation, or even just extremely rapid transport, might make national borders obsolete. People would simply choose to claim affiliation with any government they wished, or no government. Government might take on a role more similar to an insurance agency. Of course, these are only two examples. Technology is making authoritarian governments less and less relevant every day.
Just a few years ago, people would have said that government regulation is necessary to prevent frauds and hucksters from taking advantage of the weak. Of course hotels, restaurants, and taxi cabs and every other business require oversight from our benevolent overlords. Today, however, Air BnB and Uber are the largest and fastest growing hotel and taxi services, and nobody eats at a restaurant without checking the Yelp rating first. The socialization of our medical system may be raising prices, but people are less reliant on doctors for diagnosis thanks to Web MD. When medical services are required, simple cash clinics are becoming more common and less expensive. The government-run health system will likely only last a few more years before collapsing like a dying star. Even welfare is becoming obsolete thanks to services like kickstarter and gofundme, which allow people to ask for help with everything from starting a small business to removal of an embarrassing face tattoo. Even if Hillary Clinton manages to confiscate all guns, she will not be able to prevent people from producing their own on 3D printers and CNC mills.
The rise of online sales and Bitcoin has also opened markets all over the world, and free trade is being conducted securely on a scale never possible in the past. People all over the world are communicating and collaborating peacefully, sharing ideas and building a new virtual society immune to government control. Until recently, the Silk Road site allowed people to buy illegal substances without the risk of receiving a product of unknown quality or being robbed. Although the site was eventually shut down, new marketplaces immediately emerged to meet the demand of drug users.
Internet markets are not only immune to regulation, but also taxation. While some retailers do charge sales tax, it is not something that could easily be enforced, and Bitcoin can’t be taxed due to the difficulty in connecting the digital “wallet” to an individual. The IRS has imposed strict tax guidelines for the use of Bitcoin. While the aim is clearly to discourage the use of Bitcoin, it is more likely to discourage the payment of taxes. Eventually the enforcement of taxation on the internet will become more costly than the revenue it produces, and the tax system will be forced into a voluntary payment model.
Soon, manipulation of our currency will also become impossible. More retailers are accepting Bitcoin every day. As a larger segment of our economy moves to crypto-currancy, it becomes more stable and less likely to suffer shocks from inflationary monetary policy. If negative interest rates and bail-ins are instituted, people will simply move to currencies and banking systems that aren’t so prone to boom and bust cycles. Every day that passes lessens the impact that a total collapse of the dollar and fiat banking system would actually have.
Despite the best efforts of the Obama administration, government is also becoming more transparent. No matter how many whistle blowers he charges under the espionage act, more information continues to be released by sources like Wikileaks. As secrets become more difficult to contain and world wide free trade continues to grow, government will find less support for foreign wars. The world is already a much more peaceful place. People don’t like to blow each other up when there are profits to be made through peaceful interactions. The Nobel committee should have awarded the peace prize to Amazon.com, not Barack Obama.
There are areas of government that most view as indispensable. Governments provide us with personal and national security, and with a means to mediate disputes. In internet commerce, Paypal and other payment services already provide dispute resolution. Theft is much more difficult online, but when a buyer is unhappy with the product or does not receive it, the resolution is usually handled in a way that leaves both the buyer and seller happy and willing to continue engaging in trade. If either party gains a significantly bad reputation, they are simply denied access to the market. Given the effectiveness of this system, I have no doubt that third party resolution of conflicts will continue to expand, and that less demand will be placed on police and court services.
Eventually, I see everything being simply handled by insurance. And individual could purchase insurance from any number of retailers world wide who would represent that individual in disputes and compensate parties for damages. Security would likely be provided by these insurance agencies in order to prevent damage to their customers and their property. In a totally free market, the cost of this insurance would likely be much less than what the typical individual pays in taxes, and companies could choose a progressive price scale in order to make their services accessible to low income individuals. Already, private security is providing service for free to low income communities in Detroit that the police refuse to enter. Under the current system, people without money have very little protection by the police or representation in the court, and are unlikely to be compensated when they are damaged.
It is easy to get discouraged by the electoral process, but this process and our government at large is becoming completely irrelevant as technology solves the problems that government only claimed to manage. The rise of populist authoritarianism in the Democrat, Republican, Green, and Libertarian parties does not represent the end of liberty in America. What we are watching is the death throws of the State. This is the last push for control before the authoritarians become extinct.